Collaboration On Line?

DQI Bureau
New Update

A young entrepreneur goes into business. And as it often happens

these days, he or she has business partners from across the country, or even the

globe. With reliable connectivity the team-work is not restricted to all being

under one roof. Companies look for ways to collaborate on their idea, plans and

budgets. Business grows, but so do software expenses. Licenses are expensive-and

need to be renewed frequently. What does an organization with scarce resources



In the past hotmail and other free e-mail services made it

possible for people to connect in unimaginable ways. And these services continue

to be the lifeline of thousands of small businesses-freelancers, design shops,

consultants-despite being not the most efficient. The next step is having

productivity tools available online. That's precisely what Google has come up

with-with its Google Docs ( Google lets you work on documents

and spreadsheets and has a calendar as well, all online. Google Docs let you

create documents and spreadsheets. But the key here really is about the

collaboration aspect. The document is not on your PC-it stays in your account

on the Google server. You can invite your colleagues to give their comments on a

document or have online real-time discussions on it. Even in the beta version

Google Docs offers a lot of possibilities.


software as a service be able to really translate into lower costs for the

users? This would depend on the manner in which suppliers structure their

revenue streams.

Microsoft too has its Office Live in beta, which is free for

now, but requires giving out your credit card number. One sees the name Office

and tends to think that Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc will be available for free.

Perish the thought. There are three offerings online. There's Office Live

Basics that's about having a domain hosted with related tools and services-this

will remain free. Live Collaboration will have shared sites, online business

applications (customer manager, company calendar, project manager, etc), while

Live Essentials will have a combo of the two offerings. The latter two will cost

$30 a month, post beta.


But questions abound. Here are a few key ones.

Will the service be able to really translate into lower costs

for the users? This would depend on the manner in which suppliers structure

their revenue streams. Will it be licensing? Will the payment be fixed or by

number of hours used? Or will there be advertising supporting the use of these

tools-in a manner not yet thought of. The cost of connectivity would also be a

determinant of the overall money that a customer has to shell out. There is not

enough data to pronounce judgement as of now. But it is very clear that

ultimately free will have a price tag to it. Free lunch remains an eternal


Actually, connectivity could get relatively expensive as the

need to improve reliability goes up. A business cannot have the productivity

tools server being down for too long. The present day world offers back ups.

What would be the back up if connectivity fails? It is a bit like a grid

collapse on the power circuits. In the Indian context the speeds and reliability

of the Internet has to go up substantially before such offerings can find mass



Security will continue to be a critical factor. And as with

other technologies there is a technical obstacle and there is a psychological

obstacle. Both have to be overcome before businesses would be willing to put up

data online on servers controlled by global


Gartner predicts that by 2011, 25% of new business software will

be delivered as SaaS. Productivity tools will also be a part of these. Getting

ready to integrate these in businesses is the challenge for the providers,

telecom companies and of course, the end users.

The author is editor-in-chief of CyberMedia, the publisher of Dataquest.

He can be reached at